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Food insecurity is on the rise

 November 22, 2023 at 2:50 PM PST

S1: It's time for Midday Edition on Kpbs. Today we are talking about the gap between food waste and food insecurity. I'm Jade Hindman with conversations that keep you informed , inspired , and make you think. We'll tell you how local organizations are keeping food out of landfills and on the plates of those who need it.

S2: 40% of the food in the United States is wasted. 40%. So if we can rescue that food and get it to people in need , that's a win win.

S1: Plus , we'll tell you how widespread food insecurity is and give resources for help. Then waste not. We'll discuss ways to save the food that you have. That's ahead on Midday Edition. Putting three meals on the table is often easier said than done. New reports show a sharp rise in hunger across the country and right here in San Diego. So in sharp contrast to the feast some think of when celebrating Thanksgiving , we're talking about the daily struggle for many people to get enough food to eat and the efforts to relieve hunger across the county. Feeding San Diego is one organization leading hunger relief efforts. Their focus is on food rescue , taking food that would have otherwise been wasted and giving it back to communities in need. Last year , they distributed more than 35 million meals. Patty O'Connor is the CEO of Feeding San Diego. She joins us now to talk about how they're addressing this rise in food insecurity. Patty , welcome to Midday Edition. Hi.

S2: Hi. It's great to be here.

S1: Great to have you here. So , you know , we're hoping to get a broad picture of what food insecurity looks like in San Diego County.

S2: And according to Feeding America , there's hundreds of thousands of people facing food insecurity here in San Diego. And I know we all probably thought that it would go down after the pandemic , but we have not seen that there are still so many people lining up for food and needing the extra food. And as far as in front of the holidays , you know , you know , the holidays are a special season for everyone , and most of us do want to have those special holiday items for our families. And so we do see the need now , especially in front of the holidays. And we are actually trying to help with that. We have three food distributions across the county next week. On Tuesday we have one in Chula Vista , and we have one on the first in San Marcos and the 16th in Sorrento Valley.

S1: We saw a decrease in food benefits in February when the additional pandemic benefits ended. Has that continued to increase the demand on your organization at all ? Definitely.

S2: So what we were finding is that the families that were getting that extra money per month on the Cal Fresh benefits then lost that it could could have been up to $200 a month. So of course that means they have less money to buy food. So we are seeing a demand increase across all of our agency partners throughout the county.

S1: And you know , I want to I want to better understand the problem on a personal level. I mean , can you tell us about some of the people feeding San Diego serves.

S2: Absolutely well , for one , here's a good example. Erica. She is a single mom with three kids and she is working full time. She's just wonderful , really working hard to try and raise her family and is having a hard time making ends meet. And mainly it's because of the cost that we're all dealing with. But as you know , San Diego was recently ranked the highest , most , most expensive place to live , right ? So if you can imagine she's trying to have enough money to pay her rent and then also get enough for food to feed her family. So she is using our services to get more food for her family.


S2: So you know , the costs of rent , the costs of transportation and gas. We spend a lot of money transporting food both into our organization and out to the partners throughout San Diego County. So when those costs increase , it costs more for us to do our jobs. And of course , with the food pricing increases over the last couple of years , we get less per , per dollar. So we've definitely been impacted by how much we can distribute. Yeah.

S1: Going back to like , you know , getting a personal understanding of the problem you mentioned Erica. But , you know , I'd imagine there's a lot of people also who , you know , two parent households , everyone's got a job and yet they're still facing food insecurity because everything is so expensive.

S2: Yes , that's exactly right. In fact , most of the people that we serve have at least one person working in the household. And you would just be surprised at who is facing food insecurity. It could be the kids on the playground. It could be the senior citizen that you see in the grocery store. It could be the military family down the street. I mean , you just don't know. What we are finding is that food is a variable expense. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. So if you are paying rent , you know each month you can't pay part of your rent. You have to pay the whole rent , right ? Or the whole mortgage. And when you go get gas , you have to fill your gas tank up so you can go to work. If those prices go up , if those costs go up , where are you going to get that money from ? If you have a fixed budget and then you go to the grocery store , you're just not going to have as much. My income or much as much money to spend on groceries , let alone the cost of the groceries are going up too. So. So yeah , it's a variable expense. So then the people that we talked to end up buying really food that's not as nutritious because the cheaper foods are , you know , the ones that aren't as good for you , but at least it's something. And so that's where that's where they make choices , unfortunately.

S1: And then of course that presents another problem. And it all becomes cyclical. You know it's not just the quantity of food that's a problem. It's also , as you mentioned , getting healthy meals to people. The San Diego Hunger Coalition found that 1 in 4 San Diegans are nutrition insecure. How are you all addressing that gap ? Yes.

S2: So that is a newer way to talk about food insecurity , nutrition insecure , which just means that we try to have equitable and consistent access to nutritious foods for all San Diegans. And the way that we're addressing that is we focus on produce. So fresh fruits and vegetables , in fact , half of what we distribute is going to be fresh fruits and vegetables. And we distributed 43 different types of produce last year. And so that's really important to us. And we also focus on nutritious foods when we purchase. So we do have a small purchasing budget to buy staples and such. And we follow the healthy eating research guidelines. It's called her HCR. And that's to minimize saturated fat sodium and added sugar. So we really try to be careful with the funds that we have to purchase the staples , you know , the tuna and the pasta and rice and all that kind of stuff. We just really try and if we're going to spend money on something , we're going to try and make sure that it's nutritious.

S1: That's great. San Diego is also seeing more asylum seekers and other migrants. I mean , we have the third largest number of refugee arrivals in California , behind only Sacramento and Los Angeles. Are you seeing a greater number there as well ? Yes.

S2: So we're always trying to pay attention to what's going on in our county. And when we saw that happening , we reached out to our partners and also the city council people and everybody that we could think of to see how can we help ? Because that's what we're here to do is to help people in our community. So we are working with a few of our partners who are distributing food , especially the migrant center. So there is one of our agency partners who has been cooking meals every day for the asylum seekers that come to that center. And I'm actually I just visited it last week and it's it's a pretty moving experience. Yeah , they all had their papers and they were meeting up with the the people there , the volunteers , to figure out the next step of where they were going to fly to. Most of the people had money with them so they could buy flights , but some of them were robbed on the way and had no money. And they all were just , you know , trying to figure out next steps. And it was really nice that we could provide some food for them. And the organization is also purchasing food through funds that were designated by the county of San Diego. Wow.

S1: Wow. You know , the the holidays are fast approaching. We mentioned that earlier last year. You handed out boxes ahead of Thanksgiving with all kinds of food items.

S2: We are in all over the county with our partners also. So but we were specifically passing out those food boxes , as you mentioned , because of our decrease in funds , we aren't able to do as many distributions anymore , those large scale distributions. But we are doing three for the holidays , and we are distributing a holiday box that has holiday items plus basic staple items. And in fact , we had signups go up for our one in Chula Vista. And within just a couple of days we had 1700 families sign up. And that's that's our capacity for that one. So if there is a really big need and and we're trying our best to fill it , we're just not able to meet the need. Yeah. Completely. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. Wow. How about food rescue efforts ? Thanksgiving often yields a lot of leftovers , which leads to a lot of food waste.

S2: Actually , that is really a big part of our mission. And in fact , over 80% of the food that we've been distributing in the last few months has been rescued food. We continue to distribute more rescued food than anything. We work with partners all across the county and actually the nation food businesses to get their leftover food , basically their surplus food. Food that is coming up on the best by date. Or maybe something was wrong with the packaging and so they can't sell it. Or a customer canceled an order. And so now they have this excess and they need to move it. These are food businesses too , so they don't have huge warehouses just to sit on extra food. They've always got more food coming in. So in fact we work with almost three. Hundred partners , just grocery stores across San Diego County , and then another couple hundred or 200 of the Starbucks stores. And we are coordinating pickups every single day of the week , over 875 per week of pickups of rescued items from grocery stores. Wow. And I tell you what happened for Thanksgiving. Why so excited ? So we we were able to through our Feeding America affiliation , we were able to get a donation from Kraft Heinz of a whole entire truckload of stuffing. Oh wow. Before the holidays. So that's so fun. It was 28,000 boxes. So that's being distributed all across the county through our agency partners and , and some of our mobile pantries and also to the schools.

S1: Oh that's excellent. You mentioned that Feeding San Diego's focus is on food rescue. Can you talk more about how you approach how your approach rather fits in with the organizations that you partner with ? Yes.

S2: Okay. So how we do it is it's a real logistical puzzle actually. So I can give you an example. Let's say there is the Salvation Army , for example , in downtown , they might be able to pick up food on Monday , Wednesday and Friday. So we will pair them with a supermarket , let's just say Albertsons or Target or Trader Joe's , something like that. And we will work with both those stores and with the agency partner to make sure there's the right time. And we also work with the stores and that we call them the donors. But the stores , we train them as to what is okay to donate and what is not okay to donate , what time to put it out and where to put it , and all of that. And then we train the partners , you know , when , when to go and where to find the food and how to put it in your vehicle and make sure that it's food safe. We're very , very focused on food safety because we never want to have food distributed. That's not safe to the community. So there's a lot of training involved on both sides. And we also make sure that if it's a larger organization , you know , we might pair them with a larger store. So we're working with Costco , for example. We're working with Amazon warehouses. So we would pair them with , say , a small church to pick up because that could be a pallet or two of food. So it's a it's definitely we call it Tetris. It's it's a logistical puzzle.

S1: Where can people go if they need food assistance.

S2: If you want to give help , you can click on the give Help button and you can volunteer. We always love our volunteers in our Santa Valley Distribution Center and also throughout the county. We have volunteer opportunities or also of course financially. It's really easy to donate as well on the website. And then also if you need help , there's a get help button and it will take you to a map. And if you put in your zip code , you will be able to pull up right away all the distributions in your area and it'll tell you the location , the time , and just all the information about it. Everything.

S3: Everything. Yeah.

S2: Yeah. And you know what we've seen that is the most viewed page on our website is the Find Food map. Wow.

S1: Wow. Okay. Yeah.

S3: Yeah.

S2: So the need is definitely there. Yeah.

S3: Yeah.

S1: And Patty , I know that this the work that you're doing is near and dear to your heart. Tell me a little bit about that. And also , I mean , you know , when you see the need rise and continue to rise for food , how does that make you feel.

S2: Yeah , it's a very emotional , I think thing because I feel very strongly about the food rescue component. You know , we're keeping food out of the landfill , which actually is helping the climate. I also feel very strongly about that because my father used to do this 20 years ago. He started picking up food every single day before. This was a big thing. So I'm loving to follow in his footsteps in that regard. So I am glad we are rescuing food. 40% of the food in the United States is wasted 40%. So it is kind of a ridiculous number , isn't it ? So if we can rescue that food and get it to people in need , that's a win win. So that's a positive part. The hard part is , you know , seeing people who are facing food insecurity. And again , you just don't know who that person is. And and it's sad. And you know , we really like to focus our efforts on several categories of people. One of those being children , of course , children , veterans military families and seniors college students too. But for example , the children , you know , they don't know if they're going to come home and there's going to be food in the refrigerator or the pantry. In fact , I have a friend who was a counselor at a local school in San Diego , and she was saying before the holiday breaks that they would have the anxiety in the school would noticeably increase. She said she would have kids in the in her office because they knew they'd be off for two weeks. And while they're getting some meals at school , you know , they didn't know if they'd have food during that whole time. I'm at home , so that kind of breaks my heart. And that's why we are focusing on children. We are in almost 50 different schools right now providing backpacks , but food , but also food for the families. And one of our programs that we've been really focused on is at Hoover High , and it's been really successful. I'm just so happy that we were able to work with the team there. They've been incredible. We established a pantry , we're calling it the Hoover Market to take away the stigma.

S3: Oh , great. Yeah.

S2: And so the kids are the students are running the market. They're learning skills for that. The chef there is making TikTok videos with with the produce that's coming in. So the kids are learning how to eat healthy. They're doing projects in their English class. They're doing papers about nutrition and all of that , which is really cool. And one of the things that really warms my heart is we had asked one of the students how the program had impacted her , and she said that it makes her feel cared for. So that is , you know , that to me is everything.

S3: Yeah , that is everything.

S2: Yeah , we're providing food , but we're also providing hope and we're showing these kids that somebody cares. Right. And so that's why we , we just we all of us love San Diego. And so any San Diegans that can help us in this mission , we would we would really appreciate it.

S1: It's fantastic. I've been speaking with Patty O'Connor , CEO of Feeding San Diego. Thank you so much for joining us today.

S3: Thank you.

S1: Coming up , we'll talk about how widespread food and nutrition and security are in San Diego and why that is.

S4: Attrition and security is an approach to ending hunger that centers health and equity.

S1: You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. Welcome back to Kpbs midday Edition , I'm Jade Hindman. Food insecurity is on the rise nationally. A recent report from the US Department of Agriculture found that 17 million households had a hard time getting food last year. That's compared to almost 14 million households in 2021. San Diego is facing its own hunger crisis , according to the San Diego Hunger Coalition. 1 in 4 San Diegans are nutrition insecure. That means almost 800,000 people are struggling to access safe , healthy and quality meals. Anahi Brock is CEO of the San Diego Hunger Coalition. She's here to talk about the landscape of food insecurity in San Diego County , and why it's a systemic problem. Anahi. Welcome to Midday Edition.

S4: Thank you Jade , pleasure to be here.

S1: We're glad to have you here with us.

S4: Patrician insecurity is an approach to ending hunger that centers health and equity. So as part of the sector , one of the roles of the San Diego Hunger Coalition is to bring together other leaders. And one of the tables that that we've done that at is the hunger for San Diego Advisory Board , which is made up of leaders from across the sector food banks , food pantries , government agencies , senior serving organizations , etcetera. And so early on in our work together , we decided to set a standard for nutrition security based on the cost of a healthy meal. So when we talk about nutrition and security , we are looking at economic indicators of of households that are struggling to get enough nutritious food. And we can do that because we know the cost of a healthy meal. That and we we know that from what the USDA calculates every single month on the cost of food and how much each age and gender needs throughout their lives to be healthy. Also , we've got consumer spending data. You know , we put all of that together to to calculate what is the cost of a healthy meal. And then we can look at , well , what kind of income do you need to be able to support that. And it tends to fall somewhere around 200 to 300% of the of the federal poverty level. So when we're talking about nutrition and security , we're not talking about , you know , did you get enough calories. Did you from your perspective , run out of food and not have , you know , enough money to buy more ? This is really nutrition and security. It comes at this issue as a systemic and economic one , which it is.


S4: And there are different dynamics , you know , in the background when we talk about food insecurity surveys. For one thing , often the the surveyor is the the census or a doctor's office or that kind of maybe entity that has more power than the person who's answering the question. So we know from some local participatory research that was done quite some time ago by by Arc that people are often afraid to share. They don't have enough funding or enough money to feed their kids because they're worried that their children will be taken away. I think also with the national rhetoric about not being if , you know , if you can't make it , that somehow that's an indication of personal failure or making a series of poor choices , we really. Put people in a position where they're reluctant and or fearful to admit that they're not able to make ends meet. Yeah.

S3: Yeah. I mean , so.

S1: With that stigma , then there's likely an undercount of people who actually are food insecure and nutrition insecure. Food insecurity actually fell between 2011 and 2021.

S4: We know that it takes at least five years after any kind of economic recovery for households earning lower wages to fuel that recovery. We were just about at 1 in 4 before the pandemic , and we're there again. The other thing that makes the food insecurity surveys less reliable is that they're delayed by a couple of years , you know , especially if it's coming from the census. It's usually at least a year old , if not two years old if it's coming from one of those census surveys that comes in the mid years about , you know , food insecurity. So our numbers are much more up to date because they're based on current economic indicators. You know we haven't seen a huge change in wages. We haven't seen a huge change in our economy. Right. We haven't regained all of those middle skills jobs , all those middle wage living jobs that are kind of in the middle. Right ? We've still got all those. We've got a lot of low paying jobs. We've got quite a lot of high paying jobs. When it comes to your middle income , middle class jobs. We are we have a shortage in San Diego County and really across the nation. And so it's not surprising to me that we're at the same space , we're at the same level as as pre-pandemic. I will say , in the midst , probably the highest it got during the pandemic was about 36% , so it was well over 1 in 3 people. We've certainly gotten better than that. But the wage increases that people have heard about are not enough to catch us up from , you know , a solid decade of very minute increases. And there's certainly not enough to catch us up to 20% increases in the cost of food.

S1: And more than half of the San Diegans experiencing nutrition insecurity are children , adults over 60 , and people with disabilities. That's an alarming statistic.

S4: One of the often overlooked populations is people with disabilities. I would say as well , when it comes to older adults , that we have not figured out how to reach isolated seniors , that is a concern. One of the things that I think is a shining light for seniors and people with disabilities , that really anyone with a chronic disease is the the funding that that should be coming into our region for food services and food boxes and medically tailored meals through Cal Aim. So we're supposed to be getting some Medicaid dollars or Medi-Cal dollars flowing into our region for hunger relief. So I think that's something that our sector really needs to keep an eye on , because think if we can touch , you know , for the hunger relief sector to align with the the institutions and organizations that that people who are struggling are already interfacing with , that's really the , the ticket , you know , for , for reaching people in need. Um , children is a , you know , it's 1 in 3 is where we're estimating that 30% of kids don't have access to adequate nutrition on a daily basis. So that is very alarming. It does result in children having lower academic success , lower high school graduation rates , increased behavioral problems. And that's our future. It's not only their future , it's the future of our region. And it's also something I think that doesn't come up enough when we talk about equity. Right.

S1: The impact on children , you know , emergency food assistance ended last February. And you talked about the economic uncertainty we're going through.

S4: But one of the things that happened was we lost about 9 million meals a month. That came from a temporary boost to People's Cal Fresh or Snap benefits. And when people were used to getting that maximum amount during the. Pandemic and they suddenly lost hundreds of dollars in for groceries. It was a bit of a panic , and the food banks and pantries saw just incredible lines. And we really need to be looking at how to improve access to Cal Fresh and Snap in San Diego County and elsewhere. Because if our two major food banks , the San Diego Food Bank and Feeding San Diego and their 500 plus partners between them who are distributing food were to try to replace what was lost with those snap pandemic benefits that ended , they would have to triple what they do. Just to give people a sense like this is not a gap that food banks and pantries can meet on their own. And so this holiday season , to your listeners , you know , please continue to give. Think about giving at the same level that you did during the the pandemic.

S1: And the SD Hunger Coalition also mapped nutrition , security and the meal gap in the county by ZIP codes.

S4: A lot of those services are for hunger relief partners and people working in the space. But one of the things that we're hoping that more of the public will tune into is our hunger relief maps , including the meal gap map that you just mentioned , Jade. So when you look on our website under research and you look at these maps , what you'll see is where is the unmet need ? Because we are able to take the dollars on a fresh card and the pounds distributed by food banks. And we were we use a methodology to convert it all into a common metric of a meal. We're actually able to measure our progress towards ending hunger in our region by by tracking our progress towards closing the meal gap , where are.


S4: But when we look at the unmet need , there's some serious unmet need up in the North County areas. Escondido has been an area that is consistently underserved. El Cajon , the City Heights area , College area , parts of South Bay. We have as a as a sector done better in meeting some of the gaps in in South Bay , but a lot of that went away with when the pandemic aid ended. Most people don't realize that there's a lot of need up in North County to , you know , but some of the darker areas are. Maps also include parts of Vista San Marcos , parts of Oceanside. Another one that surprising for people is that there is need in in areas that we consider more affluent , like Carlsbad , Encinitas , and that's partially young families , but it's also older adults who have lived in these communities for a long time and are on a fixed income , while everything around them , you know , all the prices around them are increasing. It is a hidden crisis. It's not something that you can tell from looking at people. And so we really encourage people to understand what's going on in your community. Download and share our Food Assistance Resource fliers. We have them in 13 different languages. And when you share that on your social media , you never know who among your contacts may be struggling and someone may know someone else. It's really word of mouth. Think that's something that we learned during the pandemic , that people are turning to people that they know and trust. So they're turning to their their friends and family , neighbors , their churches , their schools. So I think a lot of the collaboration that began with , with some of these more everyday environments that that people are interacting with on a regular basis , I think we're continuing to see some of these strong partnerships post post-pandemic. But yes , having information , I mean , what we really want to see is a no wrong door. So if you go to the library and ask for help , that they would have the food assistance resource flyer or other information about resources in their community. I think it's going to really take a whole broad swath of collaboration and individuals for us to make sure that people stop falling through the cracks.

S1: I've been speaking with Anahi Brock , CEO of the San Diego Hunger Coalition. Anahi , thank you so much for joining us.

S4: My pleasure. Thank you.

S1: Coming up ways you can save the food you have and keep it out of landfills.

S5: Have a little green bin or a kitchen caddy where you capture all the food that you basically are throwing out at the end of the day , and you will notice very quickly a trend.

S1: Kpbs Midday Edition is back after the break. Welcome back. You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman. Thanksgiving is an annual opportunity to feast for many people , but when dinner is over , there are usually more leftovers than anyone knows what to do with. In fact , nonprofit RI fed estimates £312 million of food will be wasted this year from Thanksgiving festivities. At least one third of all food in the United States already goes to waste , which is bad for our environment. Researchers have actually found that combating food waste is a major solution to climate change. Malika Sen is the director of environmental solutions at Solana Center. She joins us now to talk about ways to keep leftovers from going into landfills. Malika , welcome.

S5: Thank you , Jade , for having me. I'm happy to be here.

S1: So glad you're here. I'll start with this question. You know , households are one of the leading contributors to food waste in the US. One study from 2020 found the average American household waste 32% of its food in purchases , and that amounts to about $240 billion a year collectively.


S5: They wasted for a variety of reasons , mostly unintentional. A lot of it has got to do with , you know , when you're shopping , you're being impulsive about your shopping. You don't have things really planned out. So you go and whatever catches your eye , you purchase it , and then it comes home and it languishes in your fridge. Another big reason for household waste is actually over prepared food. People just make too much , and then it's in the leftover pile in the fridge and then just never gets looked at again. So those two tend to be kind of some of the big reasons. And storing food. People also don't know what's the optimum way to store food. So that tends to be another reason. It's all unintentional , but it leads to a lot of wasted food.

S1: You've actually broken this down by category to really encourage people to think about their own food waste.

S5: You know , simplistically , what I try to tell people to do is actually to start off with paying attention to what you're wasting , you know , have a little green bin or a kitchen caddy where you capture all the food that you basically are throwing out at the end of the day. And you will notice very quickly a trend. Are you someone who tends to , you know , prepare over , prepare food ? And that is really what's the bulk of the food waste in your kitchen ? Or are you someone who does a lot of wishful shopping ? And then there's a ton of uncooked produce that is , you know , being discarded at the end of the week. So I try to tell people , start off by paying attention to what's in your waste. What's new green bin I'm sorry. And then that'll give you insight as to what should be your next steps.

S1: But you know , some people dump out food easily because of like expiration dates and reasons like that. When should you throw it out and when should you keep it ? Yeah.

S3: Great.

S5: Great. You know , gosh , expiration dates tends to cause so much confusion. And it's actually very simple. First let me explain. Date codes. Date codes are really put in place for quality not safety. The only safety date code is to do with infant formula. The rest of the date codes right. The best buy use by best of use by cell by mean. Gosh there's a there's a whole host of them. It's all to do just with the quality of food. So what we recommend and actually there dozens of articles on this is use your senses. You know , what does it look like ? How does it taste. How does it smell. And you know , if it passes your senses test then for the most part it's safe to eat. Of course. Always do. You know what makes you feel comfortable ? But there is so much of waste that is so unneeded. Just because people are confused by date codes. And actually there's some recent regulation that passed to standardize this going forward. So that'll be a really big help. And then the other thing that I try to tell people to do is use their freezer. Your freezer puts a stop on your food from decaying and deteriorating. So , you know , get into the habit of using your freezer. It'll save you in a pinch when you come home and you're hungry and you just want to eat , you can , you know , defrost it and you're good to go. And then it also helps you to save really perfectly good food that maybe you just don't want to eat two days in a row , put it in the freezer. And. And then you can eat it , you know , a couple of weeks or even months later. So your freezer is your best friend.

S3: All right.

S1: And you know , we've also talked about nutrition insecurity in our show. How do we make sure that we're not only saving food but making healthy meals to save ? Yeah.

S5: You know , nutrition is so critical. And I would always recommend that buy a lot of fruits and vegetables , you know , like your doctor tells you. And actually , coincidentally , over a third of most households , what they waste tends to actually be fresh vegetables and produce , right ? So you want to shop healthy for your health , but at the same time you want to know how to store it properly. And there are some really quick , simple tips. Understand how your fridge works and if you don't mind , that can give a quick 32nd tutorial , please. Oh yeah. Okay , so your fridge is the warmest at the top and it's the coolest at the bottom. So you need to understand that gradient right. So stuff that's highly perishable store it towards the bottom where it's cool. And items that you know don't require as much refrigeration or maybe , you know , don't have to be as cold that can be at the top. So that's one , two. Understand that your door is actually the warmest part of your fridge. You know , it actually makes sense because think about it , your doors opening and closing a lot. So everything that that's on that door really should not be highly perishable , you know , use it for your condiments and so forth , but not for your highly perishable items. And then understand your two drawers , your high humidity drawer , and your low humidity drawer so your high humidity drawer , if you do have a relatively new fridge with that control , should be used for , you know , leafy greens and vegetables , you know , leaves things that need a lot of humidity to kind of stay plump and , you know , look good and then use your low humidity drawer for fruits and stuff like that that tend to mold. So just understanding the basics of your fridge will enable you to eat healthy and at the same time keep your produce and vegetables fresh for for a long period of time.

S1: I mean , you know , when we're talking about nutrition insecurity , one of the reasons that exists is because people , some people just cannot afford to buy those healthy fruits and vegetables. Or maybe the produce isn't so good in their local grocery store. Or maybe they don't have a grocery store at all. They're in a food desert.

S5: So I would say if you're in a food desert , definitely check out the distribution sites that the food banks tend to have. And then honestly , fresh fruits and vegetables do not tend to be the high priced items unless you're buying , you know , like organic foods. If you're buying conventional foods , fresh fruits and vegetables do not tend to be the highest priced items. We waste a lot of our money on chips and soda and cookies and all this processed food that unfortunately tastes good , but it is so poor for us and our health. So start off with creating a list. Make sure that you go after the fruits and vegetables. Please touch base with your local food banks. Churches. We work with a lot of churches. Many churches tend to have pantries once a week where they also distribute fresh fruits and vegetables along with other food items. And if I just go on a small tangent but think this is something that's so important for everyone to know the Lord , this 1383 Lord actually requires all our big producers , you know , think grocery stores , hotels , restaurants , food service providers , basically all our big food producers to donate their excess food. So as a result , all this excess food that , you know , was maybe being sent to the landfill before is now going to be sent to people in need. So I am really hopeful that there's going to be a lot of nutritious , healthy food that's very soon , you know , going to be coming to the food banks if it's not already there , and it's going to be available to people who really maybe can't afford to pay full price for it. That's some work that we're doing. You know , we're in the grocery stores and a lot of these food generators a lot right now , working with them to help them set up food donation programs. So I would definitely stay tuned and stay in touch.

S1: That is excellent. And , you know , I want to shift to. Posting. You mentioned SB 1383. Earlier this year , the city of San Diego rolled out its organic waste disposal program , and more and more people are dumping their waste into green bins. But you say it's important to start with food waste prevention first.

S5: That's right , that's right. Thank you for asking that question. It's because wasted food when it's sent , even though if it's going to go to compost , it is going to waste all the wonderful water , land , fertilizer , labor , all these resources that went into growing and producing and distributing that food. All of that gets wasted , you know ? So preventing wasted food from the get go really is your best option. And I have some numbers for you. The latest numbers show that our average family of four wastes nearly $2,700 a year , just in wasted food. You know , just think about that. You're throwing away $2,700 in wasted food. So doing your part to make sure that this really precious resource is not getting wasted is so critical. It is so critical.


S5: And so once you think about what meals you want to make , then you can make your plan. You know , your grocery list , check your refrigerator , check your pantry. It's really quick. Once you get into the habit of it , you know , it literally takes you like 30s or an extra minute to to to look and see if the ingredients you need is not something you already have. Right. And then go shopping. So when you do that , you're much more likely to stick with what it is you need , and you're less likely to give in to impulsive buys. And for heaven's sake , don't get tempted by the sales. You know , buy one , get one free because then you're going to come home with all these extra potatoes or extra tomatoes , or just all this extra food that , you know , while it seemed like you were having a good deal , you don't really land up using it and then it actually goes to waste , right ? So I would say this is something that I do at home. And once you put this little practice in place , it goes such a long way , it actually removes the stress because you know what you're going to do for the week. You only shop for what you need , and then you use it all up and you feel great. So that is really my own personal number one tip that would like to share with everyone and hopefully encourage them to do the same.

S1: Great advice and we so appreciate it. Malika. I've been speaking with Malika Sen , director of Environmental Solutions at the Solana Center , and thanks so much for your insight.

S5: My pleasure Jade , thank you for having me.

S1: Thanks for joining us today. We'd love to hear your thoughts on an upcoming show about teen vaping we're working on. Do you have any questions about vaping or experiences you'd like to share ? Give us a call at (619) 452-0228. You can leave a message or email us at midday at We'd love to share your ideas here on the show. Don't forget to watch Evening Edition tonight at five for in-depth reporting on San Diego issues. And if you ever miss a midday edition show , you can find it on all podcast platforms. I'm Jade Hindman. Thanks for listening.

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A shopper, who depends on California's SNAP benefits to help pay for food, shops for groceries at a supermarket in Bellflower, Calif., on Feb. 13, 2023.
Allison Dinner
A shopper, who depends on California's SNAP benefits to help pay for food, shops for groceries at a supermarket in Bellflower, Calif., on Feb. 13, 2023.

The U.S. is seeing a significant rise in food insecurity, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. San Diego is facing its own hunger crisis — the San Diego Hunger Coalition found that 1 in 4 San Diegans are nutrition insecure.

As the level of demand grows ahead of Thanksgiving, Midday Edition looks at efforts to rescue food and relieve hunger. Plus, what the broader landscape of nutrition insecurity looks like in the county.

Finally, nonprofit ReFED estimates that 312 million pounds of food will be wasted this year from Thanksgiving festivities. We talk about ways you can reduce your own food waste at home.